The Sky Pilot in No Man's Land by Ralph Connor
Chapter XVI. The Passing of McCuaig
At Poperinghe the leave train was waiting in the station, and a little company of officers and men were having their papers examined preparatory to their securing transportation. Some of the officers were from his own brigade and were known to Barry.
"A big push on at the front, I hear," said one of them to a friend.
"Yes, major," said his friend. "They have been having a perfect hell of a time."
"By the way, your men are going in to-morrow, I understand," said the major, turning to Barry.
"I don't think so, major," replied Barry. "We have just come out."
"Oh, well, I had it from fairly good authority that they were going in to-morrow night."
Barry hunted up Monroe, whom he found talking to a signaller of the battalion.
"Did you boys hear anything about the battalion going up to-morrow?"
"Yes, sir," said the signaller promptly. "We had it over the wires. They are going in, all right, to-morrow night."
Monroe kicked the signaller on the ankle.
"Did you hear anything about it, Monroe?" enquired Barry.
"No, sir. I don't believe these rumours at all. They are always flying about."
"But you say you got it over the wires?" said Barry to the signaller.
"Yes, sir. That is, sir, of course, we get a lot of messages. Perhaps I'm mixed up," said the signaller in very evident confusion.
"And you haven't heard anything, Monroe?" said Barry.
"No, sir, not a thing, and I think I would have heard if there had been any truth in it."
Something in the childlike expression of innocence upon Monroe's face wakened Barry's suspicion.
"Look here, Monroe," he said, "don't lie to me. Now, I'm talking to you as your chaplain. Tell me the truth. Have you heard of the battalion going in to-morrow?"
Under Barry's eye Monroe began to squirm.
"Well, sir, to tell you the truth, I did hear a rumour of that kind."
"And you?" said Barry, turning upon the signaller, "tell me the truth."
"Well, sir, it's just as I said. We had it over the wires. The battalion is going in."
"Very well, get my stuff, Monroe," said Barry, quietly. "I'm going back."
"I beg your pardon, sir."
"Do you hear me? Get my stuff; I'm not going out to-night." Barry's tone admitted no further talk, and Monroe, swearing deeply at his friend the signaller and at his own stupidity, and especially at his own "lack of nerve to see his lie through," hunted out Barry's baggage and stood ready for his officer to return.
"Hello, Dunbar," said the major, as he saw Barry about to mount his horse. "What's up? Forgotten something? You'll surely miss your train."
"I'm not going," said Barry briefly, getting himself settled in his saddle.
"Not going!" exclaimed the major. "What do you mean? I thought you were on leave."
"Changed my mind," said Barry cheerfully.
"I say, old man," said the major, "there may be nothing in what I told you about the push. Anyway, you know we cannot postpone our leave until all the fighting is over."
"Oh, that's all right," replied Barry. "There are lots of you combatant chaps in a battalion, but there is only one chaplain."
"Oh, hang it all," cried the major, "take your leave. Well," seeing that Barry paid no heed to his advice, "the best of luck, old man," he said, offering his hand. "I guess you're all right after all."
The exhilaration that had sustained Barry during the evening suddenly fled, leaving him flat in spirit and limp in body. What he wanted most of all was sleep, and morning was not so far away. He rode back to his hut, and, bidding Monroe let him sleep all day, he tumbled into bed and knew nothing until late in the afternoon. Monroe, too, had slept in, and, after rising, had been busy about the hut, so that he had no further information as to the battalion's movements. The chaplain's hut was some distance from Headquarters and from the battalion camp. Hence it came that while Barry was writing hard at his letters throughout the remainder of the afternoon, he was quite unaware of what was taking place. Monroe, however, returned about six o'clock to say that the battalion had been "standing to" all afternoon, but that the general feeling was that there would be no advance until late at night.
Glad of the opportunity to catch up with his correspondence, Barry paid little heed to the passing of time. His last letter was to the V. A. D., in which he poured out the bitterness of his disappointment that he was not even now on his way to Boulogne and to her, and expressing the hope that after this "show" was over, he would be granted leave, upon which happy event he would with all speed proceed to her. She had been speaking of a trip to England. Would it not be a very wise and proper proceeding that she should make her leave to synchronise with his? Now he must be off, and so with love to her, and with the hope that they might see London together--
Just then Monroe came with the startling news that the battalion had "moved up" hours ago.
"Which road?" enquired Barry, springing to his feet.
"Don't know, sir," replied Monroe, who had evidently his own opinion about matters. "But I met a padre," he continued, "who told me that there was a stream of wounded passing through the Brandhoek Clearing Station. He said they were very short-handed there, sir," and Monroe regarded his officer with anxious eyes.
"I hate to take you up there, Monroe," said Barry with a smile.
"Oh, that's all right, sir," said Monroe, hastily, "but I guess we'll have to hurry."
"I remember, Monroe, that your major and you would have sent me out of this, but you know well enough that there's only one place for me to-night, and the question is, where is the battalion--Ypres Barracks, Chateau Beige, Zillebeck, or where?"
"I enquired at the transports, sir," said Monroe, "and no one appeared to know. They moved out quietly and left no word behind."
"All right, we'll go up to Chateau Belge, and if they are not there, we'll make a shot at Zillebeck," said Barry. "We'll go right away. We don't need a lot of truck this trip."
It was a long and tiresome march, but Barry found himself remarkably fit, and already under the exhilaration of what was before him. At the Chateau Belge they found no word of their battalion, but they were informed that the shelling on the Kruisstraat road had been bad all afternoon, and was still going on. The Boches were paying particular attention indeed to the crossroads.
"All right," said Barry. "We'll go up and have a look at it, anyway."
A hundred yards further up the road they were held up by a sudden burst of H. E. shells, which fell in near proximity to the crossroads before them.
"Well, we'll just wait here a few minutes until we can time these things," said Barry, sitting down by the roadside.
As they were waiting there, three soldiers passed them at quick march.
"Better wait, boys," called Barry; "they are dropping quite a few shells at the crossroads."
"We are runners, sir," said one of them. "I guess we'll just take a chance, thank you, sir."
"All right, boys, if you think best," replied Barry. "Good luck!"
"Thank you, sir," they said, and set off at a smart pace.
While Barry sat listening to the sound of their footsteps upon the pavement, there came that terrific whine, followed by an appalling crash, as a H. E. shell landed full upon the road. Barry sprang to his feet. Three other shells followed in quick succession, then there came the sound of hurrying feet and a man appeared, bleeding horribly and gasping.
"Oh, my God! My God! They are gone! They are gone!"
"Sit down," said Barry. "Now, where's your wound?"
"My arm, sir," said the man.
Barry cut off the blood-soaked sleeve, ripped open his first aid dressing, and bound the wound up tightly. Then he put a tourniquet upon the arm above the wound.
"The other boys killed, you say?" he inquired.
"Yes, sir, blown to pieces. Oh, my God!" he groaned, shuddering. "My chum's whole head was blown off, and the other has his belly all torn up."
"Now look here, old man," said Barry, "you lie down here where you are, and keep perfectly still," for the man was throwing himself about, more from shock than from pain. "We'll get you to the dressing station in a few minutes. Monroe, run and get the stretcher bearers, and I'll go and see how things are up yonder."
He threw his coat over the wounded man, and set off at a run toward the crossroads. He found matters as the man had said, the two bodies lying in a dark patch of bloodsoaked dust, one with head quite blown off, and the other with abdomen horribly torn.
He hurried back to the wounded man, who had recovered somewhat from his shock and was now lying on his side quietly moaning. Barry got from him the names and units of the men who had been killed.
"I will drop a note to your mother, too, my boy," he said, "and tell her about your wound."
"Oh, sir," said the boy quickly--he was only a boy after all-- "don't tell her--at least, tell her I'm all right. I'll be all right, won't I?"
"Sure thing," said Barry, "don't you fear. I won't alarm her, and I'll tell her what good stuff you are, boy."
"All right, sir. Thank you, sir," said the boy quietly.
"And I'll tell her, too, that you are not worrying a bit, and that you know that you are in the keeping of your Heavenly Father. How is that?"
"Yes, sir," said the boy in a low voice. "I will be glad to have you tell her that. She taught me all that, sir. Poor mother, she'll worry though, I know," he added with a little catch in his throat.
"Now you brace up," said Barry firmly. "You have got off mighty well. You have got a nice little blighty there, and you are going to be all right. I'll give your mother the best report about you, so that she won't worry."
"Oh, thank you," said the boy, with fervent gratitude, "that will be fine. And you are right," he added, a note of resolution coming into his voice. "I got off mighty well, and it's only my left arm, thank goodness. I'll brace up, sir, never fear," he added between his teeth, choking back a groan.
Barry accompanied the stretcher-bearer back to the chateau and gave the man over into the care of the C. A. M. C.
"Can you put a squad on to digging a grave?" he inquired of the officer in charge. "If so, though I'm in an awful hurry, I'll stay to bury those poor chaps."
"Sure thing, we can," said the officer. "We'll do the very best we can to hurry it."
In about an hour and a half Barry was on his way again. He dodged the shelling at the crossroads, and following a track across the open fields, arrived at the Zillebeck Bund without adventure.
Here to his relief he found the battalion. He made his way at once to Headquarters, and walked in upon a meeting of officers.
"Well, I'm--" exclaimed Colonel Leighton, checking himself hard, "who have we here! What in hell are you doing here, Pilot? I thought you would be safely in old Blighty by this time," he added, shaking him warmly by the hand.
"Oh, you couldn't work that game on me, colonel," said Barry cheerily, going round the group of men, who gave him an eager welcome. "You thought you had shipped me off, just as the fun was starting, but I got on to you."
"Well, I'll be darned," said Major Bayne. "How did you find out?"
Barry told him, adding, "You will have to train your man to lie more cheerfully."
"That's what comes of a man's environment," said the major, disgustedly. "I was always too truthful, anyway."
"Well, sir," said Barry, turning to the colonel. "I'm awfully glad to find you here. I was afraid I'd lost you."
"Well, gentlemen," said the colonel, "you have all got your orders. Does any one want to ask a question? Well, then, it's pretty simple after all. Two companies advance as far as Maple Copse, and gradually work up until they feel the enemy, then put in a block and hold against attack, at all costs. The other two companies are to follow up in support at Zillebeck Village. Later on, when our reserves come up, and when our guns return--I hear they are pushing them up rapidly--we are promised a go at those devils. Meantime we have got to hold on, but I expect the battalion will be pulled out very shortly."
The flickering candles lit up the faces of the men crowding the dugout. They were elaborately careless and jolly, but their eyes belied their faces. Under the careless air there was a tense and stern look of expectation. They were all sportsmen, and had all experienced the anxious nervous thrill of the moments preceding a big contest. Once the ball was off, their nervousness would go, and they would be cool and wary, playing the game for all they had in them.
"Now, gentlemen," said the colonel, as they prepared to leave the dugout, "before I let you go, there is one thing I want to say. It's a tradition of the British army that any soldier or officer who has lost his unit marches toward the sound of the guns. I am proud to-night that we have an example of that old tradition here. We left our chaplain behind, and he didn't know where his battalion had gone, but he moved toward the sound of the guns. That is what I would expect from any of you, gentlemen, but it's none the less gratifying to find one's expectations realised."
Only his flaming face revealed Barry's emotion as the colonel was speaking.
"Now then, gentlemen, carry on, and the best of luck."
"Sir," said Barry, "what about a little prayer?"
"Fine," said the colonel heartily, while round the room there ran a murmur of approval.
Barry pulled out his little Bible and read, not one of the "fighting psalms" but the tenderly exquisite words of the Shepherd's song. His voice was clear, steady and ringing with cheery confidence. His prayer was in the spirit of the psalm, breathing high courage and calm trust, even in the presence of the ultimate issue.
In a single sentence he commended his comrades to the keeping of the Eternal God of Truth and Justice and Mercy, asking that they might be found steadfast in their hour of testing and worthy of their country and their cause.
Together they joined in the Lord's prayer; then lifting over them his hands, he closed the little service with that ancient and beautiful formula of blessing, which for two thousand years has sent men out from the Holy Place of Meeting to face with hearts resolved whatever life might hold for them.
One by one, as they passed out the officers shook hands with Barry, thanking him for the service, and expressing their delight that he was with them again.
"What are we going to do with you, Pilot?" inquired the colonel.
"I thought I'd stick around with the boys," said Barry.
"Well," said the colonel, gravely, "of course, there's no use of your going up to the attack. You would only be in the way. You would be an embarrassment to the officers. That reminds me, there was a call from Menin Mill for you this afternoon. They are having an awful rush there. Our own R. A. P. will be in Zillebeck Village, and our Headquarters will be there."
"I'll go there, sir, if you agree," said Barry, and after some discussion the matter was so arranged.
In a ruined cellar in the village of Zillebeck, a mile and a half further in, the R. A. P. was established and there carried on during the desperate fighting of the next three days. Through this post a continuous stream of wounded passed, the stretcher cases all night, the walking cases all day and all night. In spite of its scenes of horror and suffering the R. A. P. was a cheery spot. The new M. O. was strange to his front line business, but he was of the right stuff, cool, quick with his fingers, and undisturbed by the crashing of bursting shells. The stretcher bearers and even the wounded maintained an air of resolute cheeriness, that helped to make bearable what otherwise would have been a nightmare of unspeakable horror. Attached to the R. A. P. was an outer building wherein the wounded men were laid after treatment. Thither in a pause of his work, Barry would run to administer drinks, ease the strain of an awkward position, speak a word of cheer, say a prayer, or sing snatches of a hymn or psalm. There was little leisure for reflection, nor if there had been would he have indulged in reflection, knowing well that only thus could he maintain his self- control and "carry on."
With each wounded man there came news of the progress of the fighting. The boys were holding splendidly, indeed were gradually eating into the enemy front. They brought weird stories of his comrades, incidents pathetic, humorous, heroic, according to the temperament of the narrator. But from more than one source came tales of Knight's machine gun section to which McCuaig was attached. Knight himself had been killed soon after entering the line, and about his men conflicting tales were told: they were holding a strong point, they were blown up, they had shifted their position, they were wiped out, they were still "carrying on." McCuaig was the hero of every tale. He was having the time of his life. He had gone quite mad. He was for going "out and over" alone.
The first authentic account came with young Pickles, now a runner, who made his way hobbling to Headquarters with a message from A Company, and who reported that he had fallen in with McCuaig by the way, and by him had been commandeered to carry ammunition, under threat of instant death.
"Where did you see McCuaig first, Pickles?" Barry inquired, anxious to learn the truth about his friend.
"Way up Lover's Walk," said young Pickles, who was in high spirits, "under a pile of brush and trees. I though it was a wildcat, or something moving and snarling--the light was kind of dim--and when I went up there was McCuaig. He was alone. Two or three men were lying near him, dead, I guess, and he was swearing, and talking to himself something fierce. I was scart stiff when he called me to him. I went over, and he says to me, 'Say, youngster,' just like that, 'you know where this walk used to drop down into the trench? Well, there's a lot of machine gun ammunition over there, all fixed up and ready. You go and bring it up here.' I tried to get out of it, sayin' I was bringing a 'hurry up' message down, but he turns his machine gun on me, and says, 'Young man, it's only a couple of hundred yards down there, and fairly good cover. They can't see you. Go and bring that stuff here. If you don't I'll blow you to hell just where you stand.' You bet I promised. I got that ammunition so quick. Oh, of course, he's crazy, all right," said young Pickles, "but he is fighting like hell. I beg pardon, sir."
"Doctor, I'm going after him," said Barry. "He will stay there until he bleeds to death. He is my oldest friend."
"All right, padre, if you say so," said the M. O., "but it's a nasty job. I should not care for it."
Barry knew the area thoroughly. He got from young Pickles an exact description of the location of the spot where McCuaig had last been seen, and with the returning stretcher bearers set off for the wood, which was about a thousand yards further on.
The communication trench leading up to the wood, which had been constructed with such care and of which the Canadians were so proud, had been blown up from end to end by the systematic and thorough bombardment of the three days before. The little party, therefore, were forced to make their way overland by the light of the star shells.
They reached the wood in safety. Barry looked about him in utter bewilderment. Every familiar feature of the landscape was utterly blotted out. The beautiful ambrosial wood itself, of heavy trees and thick tinder-brush, was a mat of tangled trunks, above which stood splintered stubs. Not a tree, not a branch, hardly a green leaf was left. Under that mat of fallen trunks were A and C Companies, somewhere, holding, blocking, feeling up toward the Hun.
The shells were whining overhead, going out and coming in, but mostly coming in. None, however, were falling on the wood because here friend and foe were lying almost within bayonet length of each other. Only an occasional burst from a machine gun broke the silence that hung over this place of desolation and death.
"That's the company Headquarters," said the stretcher bearer, pointing to what looked like a bear den, under some fallen trees. Barry pushed aside the blanket and poking his head in, found Duff and a young lieutenant working at a table by the light of a guttering candle.
"For the love of God, Pilot," exclaimed Duff, springing up and gripping Barry's hand, "it's good to see you, but what are you doing here?"
"I came up for McCuaig," said Barry, after a warm greeting to both.
"Oh, say, that's good. We have got him as far as the next dugout here, the old bear. I've been trying to get him out for half a day. There's a soldier for you! He's been potting Boches with his blessed machine gun, scouting from one hole to another for the last two days, and he's got a nasty wound. I'm awfully glad you have come."
"How are things going, Duff?"
"We have got the ----s so that they can't move a foot, and we'll hold them, unless they bring up a lot of reserves."
"By Jove! Duff, you boys are wonderful."
"I say," said Duff, brushing aside the compliment, "did young Pickles get through? That young devil is the limit. You'd have thought he was hunting coyotes."
"Yes, he got through. Got a blighty though, I guess. It was he that told me about McCuaig."
"Well, Pilot, old man," said Duff, taking him by the arm, "get out! Get out! Don't waste time. There may be a break any minute. Get out of here."
Duff was evidently in a fever of anxiety. "You had no right to come up here anyway; though, by Jove, I'm glad to see you."
"What's the fuss, Duff?" said Barry. "Am I in any more danger than you? I say," he continued, with tense enthusiasm, "do you realise, Duff, that as long as Canada lasts they will talk of what you are doing up here these days?"
"For Heaven's sake, Pilot, get out," said Duff crossly. "You make me nervous. Besides, you have got to get that wounded man out, you know. Come along."
He hustled Barry out and over to the neighbouring dugout, where they found McCuaig with his beloved machine gun still at his side. The wounded man was very pale, but extremely cheerful, smoking a cigarette.
"I'm glad to see you, sir," he said quietly, reaching out his hand.
"Good old man," said Barry, gripping his hand hard, "but you are a blamed old fool, you know."
McCuaig made no reply, but there was a happy light on his face. Under Duff's compelling urging they got the wounded man on a stretcher and started on their long and painful carry.
"Now, boys," warned Duff, "you are all right up here, except for machine guns, but don't take any chances further out. That's where the danger is. When the shells come, don't rush things. Take your time. Now, good-bye, Pilot, it's worth a lot to have seen you anyway."
"Good-bye, old man," said Barry, smiling at him. "You're the stuff. Good luck, old man. God keep you."
Duff nodded, and waved him away. The return trip was made in comparative quiet.
"What do you think, doctor?" said Barry, after the M. O. had completed his examination.
"Oh, we'll pull him through all right," said the M. O. "When did you get this, McCuaig?" he continued, touching a small wound over the kidney.
"Dunno, rightly. Guess I got it when we was blown up, yesterday."
"Then why didn't you come in at once?" inquired the M. O. indignantly.
McCuaig looked at him in mild surprise.
"Why, they was all blown up, and there wasn't anybody to run the gun."
The M. O. examined the wound more closely and shook his head at Barry.
"We won't touch that now. We'll just bandage it up. Are you feeling pretty comfortable?"
"Fine," said McCuaig with cheerful satisfaction. "We held them up, I guess. They thought they was going to walk right over us. They was comin' with their packs on their backs. But the boys changed their minds for them, I guess."
A reminiscent smile lingered upon the long, eaglelike face.
Half an hour later Barry found a minute to run into the adjoining room where the wounded lay.
"Anything you want, McCuaig?" he asked.
"A drink, if you ain't too busy, but I hate to take your time."
"Oh, you go to thunder," said Barry. "Take my time! What am I for? Any pain, Mac?"
"No, not much. I'm a little sleepy."
Barry turned the flash-light on his face. He was startled to find it grey and drawn. He brought the M. O., who examined the wounded man's condition.
"No pain, eh, Mac?"
"No, sir," said McCuaig cheerfully.
"All right, boy, just lie still," said the M. O., beckoning Barry after him.
"He is going out," he said when they reached the dressing room, "and he's going fast. That wound in the back has been bleeding a long time."
"Oh, doctor, can't anything be done? You know he's got a remarkable constitution. Can't something be done?"
"There are times when a doctor wishes he had some other job," said the M. O., "and this is one of them."
"I say, doctor, will you get along without me for a while?" said Barry.
"Go on," said the M. O., nodding to him.
Barry took a candle and went in beside his friend. As he sat there gazing upon the greying face, the wounded man opened his eyes.
"That you, Barry?" he asked with a quiet smile.
Barry started. Only in the very first weeks of their acquaintance had McCuaig called him by his first name, and never during the past months had be used anything but his rank title. Now all rank distinctions were obliterated. They were as man to man.
"Yes, Mac, it's me. Do you know what I was thinking about? I was thinking of the first time I saw you coming down that rapid in your canoe."
"I remember well, Barry. I often think of it. It's a long time ago," said McCuaig in his soft, slow voice. "I've never been sorry but once that I come, and that time it was my own fault, but I didn't understand the game."
"You've made a great soldier, Mac. We are all proud of you," said Barry, putting his hand upon McCuaig's. McCuaig's long thin fingers tightened upon Barry's hand.
"I think I'm going out," he said, with his eyes on Barry's face. "What do you think?"
It was the time for truth telling.
"Oh, Mac, old man," said Barry, putting his head down close to him to hide from him the rush of tears that came to his eyes, "I'm afraid you are, and I hate to have you go."
"Why, Barry, you crying for me?" asked McCuaig in a kind of wonder. "Say, boy, I'm awful glad you feel that way. Somehow I don't feel quite so lonely now."
"Oh, Mac, you are my oldest, my best friend in the battalion, in all the world," said Barry.
"Oh, I just love to hear you say that, boy. Do you know I wanted to tell you how I felt about that time on the boat, you remember?" Barry nodded. "Barry, tell me, honest Injun, did I make good as a soldier?"
"The best ever," said Barry. "They all say so, officers and men. I heard the colonel say so the other day."
Again the smile came.
"Barry, it was you that done that for me. You showed me, and you done it so nice. I never forgot that, and I always wanted to tell you how I felt about it. Barry, you done a lot for me."
"Oh, Mac, don't talk like that," said Barry, trying to keep his voice steady. "I did so little and I wanted to do so much."
"Say, I like to hear you. I'd like to stay a little longer just to be with you, Barry. I've watched you just like you was my own boy, and I've been awful proud of you, but I didn't like to say so."
The uncovering of the great love of this simple, humble hearted man broke down Barry's self-control. He made no effort to check his falling tears.
"I'm getting--kind of weak, Barry," whispered McCuaig. "I guess I won't be long, mebbe."
His words recalled Barry's nerve.
"Mac, would you like me to say a prayer?" he asked. "Just as you feel about it, you know."
"Yes--I would--but I ain't--your religion--you know--though--I like--awful well--the way--you talk about--Him."
"I know you are R. C., Mac, but after all you know we have just the one Father in Heaven and the one Saviour."
"Yes,--I know, Barry. It's all the same."
Barry had a sudden inspiration.
"Wait, Mac, a minute," he said.
He hurried out to the dressing room, seeking a crucifix, but could find none there.
"I'll run across to Headquarters," he said.
"Say, there's a machine gun playing that street awful," said the M. O.'s sergeant, "to say nothing of whizzbangs."
"Oh, that's all right," said Barry. "I'll make a dash for it."
But at Headquarters he was no more successful. He went out into the garden in the rear of the R. A. P., and returned with two small twigs. The M. O. bound them together in the form of a cross. Barry took it and hastened to McCuaig's side.
The hurried breathing and sunken cheeks of the wounded man showed that the end was not far. As Barry knelt beside him, he opened his eyes. There was a look of distress upon his face, which Barry understood. God was near. And God was terrible. He wanted his priest.
"Barry," he whispered, "I've not--been a good man. I haven't been-- mean to anybody,--but I used--to swear--and fight, and--"
"Mac, listen to me. We're all the same," said Barry, in a quiet, clear voice. "Suppose I'd injured you."
"But suppose I did some real mean thing to you, and then came and said I was sorry, would you forgive me?"
"Would I--I'd never think--of anything--you did--to me, Barry."
"Mac, that's the way your Father in Heaven feels to you. We have all done wrong, but He says, 'I will blot out all your sins.' You needn't fear to trust Him, Mac."
"I guess--that's so, Barry--I guess that's--all right."
"Yes, it's all right. Now I'll say a prayer. Look, Mac!"
He held up the little wooden cross before his eyes. A smile of joy and surprise transfigured the dying face.
"I see it!--I see--it!" he whispered, and made a movement with his lips. Barry laid the cross upon them, and with that symbol of the Divine love and of the Divine sacrifice pressed to the dying lips, he prayed in words such as a child might use.
For some time after the prayer McCuaig lay with his eyes shut, then with a sudden accession of strength, he opened them and looking up into Barry's eyes, said:
"Barry, I'm all right now. . . . You helped me again."
The long thin hands, once of such iron strength, began to wander weakly over the blanket, until touching Barry's they closed upon it, and held it fast.
"I--won't--forget--you--ever--" he whispered. The nerveless fingers with difficulty lifted Barry's hand to the cold lips. "Good--bye--Bar--ry--" he said.
"Good-bye, dear old comrade. Good-bye, dear old friend," said Barry in a clear quiet voice, gazing through his falling tears straight into the dying eyes.
"Good--night--" The whisper faded into silence. A quiet smile lay on the white face. The eyes closed, there was a little tired sigh, and the brave tender spirit passed on to join that noble company of immortals who abide in the Presence of the Eternal God of Truth and Love, and "go no more out forever," because they are akin to Him.
In the sorely tortured graveyard, beside the little shell-wrecked Zillebeck church, in a hole made by an enemy shell, they laid McCuaig--a fitting resting place for one who had lived his days in the free wild spaces of the Canadian west, a fitting tomb for as gallant a soldier as Canada ever sent forth to war to make the world free.
That night the battalion was relieved. Worn, spent, but with spirit unbroken, they crawled out from under that matted mass of tangled trunks, sending out their wounded before them, and leaving their buried dead behind them, to hold with other Canadian dead the line which from St. Julien, by Hooge, Sanctuary Wood, and Maple Copse, and Mount Sorel, and Hill 60, and on to St. Eloi, guards the way to Ypres and to the sea. To Canada every foot of her great domain, from sea to sea, is dear, but while time shall last Canada will hold dear as her own that bloodsoaked sacred soil which her dead battalions hold for Honour, Faith and Freedom.